The semester is finally drawing to a close and for my final blog post I just wanted to talk about what I have learned or what I have gained from doing this directed study topic.
First of all is the greater appreciation that I have for historical research and the history of European settlers in Adelaide. Coming into this topic, I must admit that I was not totally interested in historical archaeology and I thought that it would not be as an involving project as it eventually turned out to be. Continue reading
The final major individual project I undertook at the Mitcham Heritage Research Centre was to re-design and update the local history webpages. Maggy and I had been discussing the need for a website for the Centre ever since I began my placement, however it was the move from the old school house to the old police station that really promted the project. We agreed that with a bigger, better premesis the Centre now needed bigger, better promotion and exposure to the local community. Continue reading
Following on from the successful completion of the two heritage brochures, my next individual project was not something taken from the original ‘to do’ list. Rather, the task of evaluating and re-vamping the volunteer training program was spontaneously suggested by Maggy one afternoon. As an ‘outsider’ or unbiased third-party, with an education in heritage , she anticipated that I would be able to spot any flaws, drawback and omissions in the current program, and make suggestions to improve upon it in readiness for the new year training sessions in February 2010.
To evaluate the program, I reviewed Maggy’s notes and handouts from previous years, and spoke with volunteers who had gone through the training previously about what they liked and disliked. Drawing on my experience from giving and receiving lectures, and my understanding of the volunteer role within the Heritage Centre, I proceeded to cull, add and rearrange areas of the program. Most significantly I shortened the program from four days to two, and cut out all the tests and role-plays, which from the feedback i gathered, were found to be unpleasant and discouraging to participants.
I put the new program into a PowerPoint presentation, which would be easy to use and follow. My aims for the final product were like those of any presentation I put together – that it have a logical order, be relevant and to the point, and be engaging. I used phrases from current policy and procedures documents to make the presentation more professional, and more familiar to Maggy, as she would be the one running the program at the end of the day.
The new volunteer training program was successfully launched in February of this year, and to my surprise Maggy was able to condense it further from two whole days to two half days, which was much more convenient for the participants.
My directed study is coming along well, but I still have a lot of work to do revising my report and creating my site maps. I consider myself fortunate this semester in that my two research projects complement each other geographically, historically and methodologically; I have learnt a great deal more about the Mitcham area than what I thought at the beginning of the semester.
For this post, I thought that I might share with you some information regarding wages and working conditions for labourers in the mid-nineteenth century, and how this information compliments one of my research topics.
Christine Bender and Susan Piddock state in their chapter of ‘Valleys of Stone’ that in 1851, there were approximately 1,500 unemployed men living in Adelaide. This spell of unemployment was broken with the discovery of gold in Victoria, as men were drawn to the Victorian goldfields with the hopes of striking it rich. This absence of labour created a worker shortage, and as a result, wages soared (2006: 35). By 1853 labourers were earning 9 shillings a day which was twice as much as what they earnt in 1851 (2006: 36).
Samuel Saunders, the original owner of the sections of land that make up Randell Park today, arrived in South Australia in 1850. By 1854, he was a partner in a quarrying operation , he had purchased a section of land and he had built his house on that piece of land. He eventually ended up running his own business using the stone that he quarried from his own land, as well as constructing bridges that are still standing today, one of which is heritage listed. It appears that Saunders’ story is a classic European settler story, in that he achieved all of this from years of hard work and sacrifice.
However, when placed in the historical context outlined above, his story can be viewed through a new perspective. I am not saying that Saunders coasted through life on a lucky break, but the point that I am trying to make is that when two pieces of information complement one another, it allows us to view those pieces of information from a different perspective and gives the story so much more texture. I have found this to be one of the best aspects of historical and archival research.
Brochures are one of the main means by which the MHRC promotes Mitcham’s heritage, and they currently have over 40 available from the centre and online. These brochures cover many aspects of the area’s history – from suburbs and wards, prominent people and buildings, to cemeteries and reserves within Mitcham – and are usually presented as chronologies or timelines.
My first individual project at the Centre was to create two new brochures suitable for the public – one for the photographic collection and the other for a tiled table top tour. Already there existed four brochures regarding the photographs, one for each of the four major donors to the collection, but Maggy’s brief was to make an overarching brochure which would encompass the collection as a whole. There were no existing brochures regarding the tiled tables, and Maggy’s brief was that I make a ‘tour’ brochure that people could use to visit the 6 tables.
I used the local history collection to research my two topics, to gather information and images. I had decided early on that I didn’t want my brochures to be just another two chronologies to add to the collection – I wanted them to be interesting, original and useful. I wanted to make them more engaging to the public with a fresh layout, easy to understand, relevant and informative text, associated photographs, a map for the tour and an order form for the photos. I was also aware, particularly with the photographic collection, of not repeating information that could already be found in other brochures.
After several edits, the brochures were debuted to the public at the Princes Rd centre opening in November 2009, and are now available from the Centre and online. A new table top is being unveiled for History Week 2010 (see Mitcham website for details) and my table top tour brochure will be peddled at that event to encourage people to visit the other sites around Mitcham.
for your own copy, click on the links below